The Tripartite FTA and the Services Sector

Image: Flickr, Russell Street
Image: Flickr, Russell Street

The 26 member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) plan to begin negotiations soon on the creation of a single 'Tripartite' free trade area.

These discussions, which will include trade in services, have the potential to transform the continent’s economic profile. With regards to trade in goods, the intention is to free all regional trade within a three-year period. In services, however, early indications are that the ‘no risk, no benefit’ stance of SADC and COMESA has prevailed over the more ambitious approach of the EAC. Although the draft text on trade in services is laced with loopholes, it is encouraging that a separate annex on the movement of business persons has been crafted and negotiations on this will be front-loaded. Meaningful progress in this area would bring real economic benefits to the participants, and may also signal a shift in the region’s attitude to services trade.

12 Mar 2012
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